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Credit Card vs. Debit Card

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Hands holding a stack of cards

Debit and credit cards are convenient ways to pay, and many people use both types of cards. 

    Weigh the benefits and considerations of each.

    Debit Card


    • The money comes from your checking account so you’re using your own money, not credit.
    • Useful for everyday purchases such as groceries and many routine expenses.


    • Some merchants may submit an authorization for more than the final amount of your purchase, which may affect your balance that is available for subsequent purchases.
    • In an emergency, you won’t be able to use your debit card if you don’t have available funds in your account and you don’t have overdraft coverage. Or if you do have overdraft coverage, fees may apply.
    • If unauthorized charges are made on your debit card, and you are unaware of it or waiting for the issue to be resolved, checks and other payments from your checking account could be returned unpaid.

    Credit Card


    • Useful for purchases where you would like to delay payment—either until you get your statement and pay the balance in full, or you need to pay over time.
    • Better option for online shopping and some other situations (see examples above).
    • Helpful in emergencies when you don’t have available funds in your checking account.


    • There could be a risk of overspending if you’re paying with credit.
    • If you carry over a balance month to month, you’ll pay interest. However, on most credit cards, you can avoid interest if you pay your balance in full each month within the grace period.

    Common purchases to consider using a credit card:

    • Online purchases and phone orders
    • Major purchases or other purchases you may wish to return
    • Gas stations and hotels, which may place holds on your funds for more than you expected
    • Deposits on future travel or merchandise you have not yet received
    • Restaurants where your card leaves your sight and the final amount may differ due to adding a tip
    • Rental cars, which may add charges that you initially didn’t plan for
    • Purchases in foreign countries where merchant processing and returns take longer

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